This week my mom fell and broke her humerus – near the top, just before the ball joint of the shoulder.  She has been in the hospital and had surgery and hopefully comes home today.  YaY! 

Unfortunately, I just came off a stretch of working 6 days in a row!  I think I have seen my kids for all of an hour each day.  My house is turning to chaos and the laundry is stacking up. 

Two nights ago, I was driving home from the hospital and thinking about the next day’s tasks.  In the midst of wondering when I would see my children and how my husband was surviving all of this, I turned on the radio (K-LOVE by the way).  Of course, they were doing this wonderful segment on the many roles of mothers and how to balance those roles!  Hmmm….God must be listening to the rambling in my head and decided I needed some encouragement!  LOVE it when He does that!

Needless to say, I have not learned any revelatory insights about how to balance my roles of mother, mother of a child with special needs, wife, bread-winner, homemaker, daughter, etc…

All I can say is that encouragement is the most important thing.  Some days you have to decide between one role or another – that’s just how it is.  There is always something that you can do to make a certain relationship or task better.  Perfection is impossible.  If I focus on it, then I become depressed.  Which brings me to encouragement…

Sometimes its unexpected – like Evan gave me a kiss yeseterday!  Sometimes its purposeful – like when my husband says I am the most wonderful wife!  Sometimes its divinely inspired – like on my way home in the car listening to the radio!  And other times you just have to find it yourself! 

Finding it yourself. 

I’m a big believer in the fact that God gives us all of the tools we need.  If we rely on Him and ask Him to show us encouragement, then He will do that.  You never know where or when it will come, but its there. 

Even when you think its not!

This is what I found today…

So what is encouraging you today?

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A few days ago, I took Evan to his very first swim lesson.  Normally, sessions with new people don’t go well, but Evan cried minimally and smiled and laughed most of the time.  I tried to ease his transition by letting him watch Arianna’s swim lesson.  Of course, changing his clothes was an all out duel!  Once we sat down in front of the large window, he saw the others swimming and became pretty excited.  When I handed him off to the total stranger, he cried, but I’m pretty sure most 2 1/2 year-olds would do that!  And then Arianna and I, went back into the waiting area which was filled with mothers who were staring at us.  Yes, staring. 

I smiled meekly and took Arianna to get changed.  While drying her hair, I contimplated their stares.  I really did not think Evan’s level of upset was abnormal.  Once he was in the water, he stopped completely and was smiling and laughing.  Then, I realized that they must have known that the instructor was trained to teach special needs kids – that was why they were staring.   I have to admit, it made me feel worse.   

We sat down in the waiting area and Arianna ate a snack while we watched Evan.  The other moms were all talking to each other and introducing themselves.  I kind of felt like I should try and be social, but the episode of staring had thrown my confidence.  I sat there thinking of what my introduction should be, “No worries.  My autistic son is not contaminating the pool water.”  I laughed out loud when I thought this.  The absurdity of the thought began to put things in perspective. 

Autism is not contagious.  It is, however, extremely prevelent.  1 in 110 children are diagnosed with the condition and, even more striking, 1 in 70 boys.  Autistic people can be very different from us, but for every thing which makes them different – there is one thing that we have in common. 

Last Saturday, I went to an Autism Expo.  There were tons of places offering services – schools, therapies, organizations, etc.  There was one booth with an autistic man.  He was selling and signing a book he had written.  There were probably hundreds of people at this event, but no one was at his booth.  I knew why.  They were afraid to talk to him.  I was afraid.  I didn’t even stop.  I felt convicted about it all day.  Yet, I had forgotten about it completely until Tuesday. 

Tuesday was the day I took Evan to the pool and no one talked to me, because they knew he was ‘special’.  It is so easy as human beings to focus on all things that make us different from one another.  We have seen it through history – skin color, religion, etc.  Why can’t we see what makes us the same? 

I’m not offended by those moms at all anymore.  I realize that they didn’t talk to me for the same reason I didn’t talk to the autistic man at the expo.  They were afraid.  Afraid they might say the wrong thing.  Afraid I wouldn’t want to talk about the same things as them.  Afraid it might be awkward between us.  They couldn’t see that we were in the same building for the exact same reason – swim lessons.  Perhaps next week I will introduce myself like this:

“No worries.  If your children contaminate the pool with their normalcy, I won’t be offended.  After all, they are all here to swim, aren’t they?”

Ouch.  Maybe not.  Perhaps this vein of thought would be better…

“Hi, my name is Ashley.  That’s my son, Evan, out there.  He has autism.  And he loves the water, huge hugs, anything with wheels and running around like a bulldozer.   I’m really proud of him.  Which child is yours?”